How the social business will transform industry

The evolution of the workplace will transform how energy, utilities, construction & facilities management companies manage and engage with employees.

Technology is disrupting business models, and is enabling engaged employees to take a real stake in driving both operational efficiencies today, and growth and innovation for the future.

In particular, technology is enabling businesses to connect their workforces more effectively than ever before, both with each other and with sources of business information.  This trend is driving connected intelligence – the ability of a business to collectively make smarter, more informed decisions.

With this connection comes the rise of the ‘social’ business. Social media has been part-and-parcel of everyday life for the best part of a decade, but has taken time to permeate through to the workplace.

Over the past ten years, Facebook has become a legacy platform and the market is changing. However, the majority of businesses are what I would describe as ‘anti-social’.

This is a big missed opportunity. Enterprise social media platforms such as Yammer and Drive can allow a business to be more flexible and responsive, while also creating a more innovative culture.

Particularly for organisations with large field workforces, it’s vital to provide access to these social platforms via mobile devices. Failing to do this can create a two tier culture where office-based workers have better tools, and can force field personnel to use unapproved & unsupported alternatives.

When implemented correctly and embraced by the workforce, this new breed of social business fosters three things: better communication, collaboration, and curation among colleagues.

The early adopters of these platforms are reaping the benefits, and I see this approach as something we will see more and more of in industry.

Healthcare brand Bupa is a great example of how this technology is being used, for those in search of inspiration.

After a number of mergers and acquisitions between 2005 and 2008 Bupa was made up of 20 different global businesses that were isolated from each other, and had no history of close collaboration.

The company built an internal social network in the form of Bupa Live, focusing on user-generated content. This has allowed staff to collaborate on documents and share ideas, letting them work much closer together and breaking down internal siloes.

As well as improving communications, platforms such as these are enabling organisations to be more inclusive and embrace diversity.

The enterprise social network can create a collective community, rather than special interest groups, which can be quite closed and ‘siloed’. This different approach can play a big part in making staff feel much more valued – which in turn helps them make the most of their talents.

It’s also about utilising the wisdom of the crowd – the brains of several hundred people are going to be a lot smarter than one.

Just think about the benefits which come with the ability to field test concepts with an engaged internal audience, as well as crowdsourcing new ideas from different areas across the business.

It makes your organisation much smarter and more inclusive at the same time.

This ties together with another area that is driving a lot change in industry at the moment – the rise of the connected workforce.

I argue that once you have a connected workforce, you then become a more intelligent business.

The ability to work from any location on any device means staff are able to get out into the field more often, allowing an organisation to get much closer to the customer.

Connecting employees together, both through technology & through a more open, supportive culture, makes it easier to seek & receive help from your peers. This in turn drives higher performance, continual improvement and learning – something particularly important for younger new starters such as graduates or apprentices.

And this is clearly something that employees want.  Our Digital Inside Out research found that 61% of utilities organisations’ employees think that digital services make their lives easier.

However, there is a clear demand for more, with 74% thinking their employers should invest more in digital and over a third agreeing that they’re not getting full value from digital services.

Surprisingly, I see more progress being made here by the public sector rather than the private sector.

This is being driven by the need to make efficiencies and cut costs more than anything with continued pressure on the public purse. Incumbents in the private sector are more reluctant to do so, but that will change with the mobile-first consumer expecting digital services on demand.

The advantages of becoming a technology-enabled social business will become increasingly obvious, as those who succeed in doing so deliver increased operational efficiency and competitive advantage.

So – in your business, should you be thinking about becoming more social?

James Johnston

James Johnston

Director, Manufacturing, Utilities & Services at Fujitsu
James Johnston

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